The United Congress is led by the vision and voices of grassroots communities of color.  We are driven by the diverse leadership of Chicago’s most dynamic community and religious organizations.

Executive Council

Idida Perez, Executive Director, West Town Leadership United (WTLU)

Idida as the Executive Director of West Town Leadership United (WTLU), an organizing project engages parents in community-based school reform in Chicago.  Idida began organizing as a parent-leader, and in 1999, she initiated a monthly discussion and support group for women organizers in Chicago. Perez also serves as a steering committee member of the National Organizers Alliance (NOA).

Isabel Anadon

For the last ten years, Isabel has worked across and throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities to revitalize blighted public spaces by incorporating a sustainable and environmentally conscious approach to redevelopment of these forgotten spaces in Chicago.  She has also worked with youth to develop leadership and community skills, instilling the passion and vision for continued community and self development.  Since 2005, Isabel has spent much of her time with Cook County’s diverse immigrant and refugee community.   Both of her parents migrated to the U.S. from their native country ofChile in the late 1960s.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and her Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago.

Jhatayn “Jay” Travis, Executive Director, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO)

Travis became the Executive Director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), one of Chicago’s oldest grassroots organizations, at the age of 28.  Born and raised in the neighborhood, her work has focuses on ensuring quality education and affordable housing for neighborhood families.  She has assisted residents in forming tenant councils, aided in the creation of over 20 youth driven initiatives, and worked with Clergy Committed to Communities to address issues pertaining to the safety of women.  Jay holds a Masters Degree from the school of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

Jenny Arwade, Executive Director, Albany Park Neighborhood Council

Jenny Arwade is Executive Director of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, a community based organization located in one of the most immigrant communities in Chicago.  A graduate of Princeton University, Jenny has been a community organizer since 2000, and Executive Director of APNC since 2004.  In that time, she has worked to organize community residents through local as well as collaborative campaigns to increase access to affordable housing, and affordable health care, improve the quality of public education, and promote immigrant rights. Jenny is also VicPresident of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an Executive Council Member of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, and recently worked with 6 other organizations to form Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), a multi-ethnic youth-led community organizing collaborative to tackle the dropout rate in Chicago Public Schools.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, President, Enlace Chicago

A native of Durango, Mexico, Garcia has been a resident of Chicago’s predominantly Latino Little Village neighborhood for 38 years.  He was one of the first Latinos elected to Chicago’s City Council in 1986 and later served as the first Mexican-American elected to the Illinois Senate.  In 1998, Garcia became the founding Executive Director of the Little Village Community Development Corporation (now Enlace Chicago), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of neighborhood residents where he now serves as President. He is also Vice-President of the Woods Fund of Chicago and Board President of the Latino Policy Forum.  Garcia holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois and a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

 

Apostle Joseph Lewis Stanford, Ambassadors for Christ Church

Apostle Stanford founded the Ambassadors For Christ Church of Chicago, also known as AFC World Outreach Ministries in September 1982.  Through his leadership, the AFC has grown to more than just a church in the traditional sense.  It has become a beacon of hope for the community in Chicago, housing a multicultural theater, several nonprofit organizations, and a church incubator, which provides space, supplies, equipment, and support to as many as 50 independent churches and nearly 10,000 parishioners every month.  From church planting, to crime reduction, to interfaith organizing, to economic development, to producing theatrical plays, Apostle Stanford is a man of faith and he believes that with God’s guidance, nothing is impossible to him.

Reverend Patricia Watkins, Founding Director, TARGET Area Development Corporation

Born in Chicago, Reverend Watkins has led community-driven initiatives that reduce crime and incarceration in the Auburn-Gresham and Englewood neighborhoods.  She is the co-founder and convener of the Developing Justice Coalition, a successful statewide alliance of local organizing groups whose focus is: public safety, criminal justice policy, sentencing reform, and ex-offender reintegration issues.  Reverend Watkins earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Roosevelt University, a Master’s of Human Services Administration at Spertus College, and studied Accounting at DePaul University.  Currently, she is a PhD candidate at Capella University studying Human Services Administration with a concentration in Management of Nonprofit Agencies.  She is also co-founder and convener of the United Congress.

 

Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network

Nashashibi has served as the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) since its inception in January 1997.  Born in Amman, Jordan, he spent most of his childhood living in the Middle East and Europe before moving to Chicago to attend DePaul University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and International Studies.  Nashashibi is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of Chicago.  He is the author of Ghetto Cosmopolitanism: Making Theory at the Margins and a recent recipient of the LISC Community Hero Award and the National Housing Service Community Leaders Award.

Pastor Ron Taylor, Vice-President, TARGET Area Development Corporation

Pastor Ron has the heart of a servant and has led faithfully as an ordained Deacon, Minister and Senior Pastor. He is one of the founders and the President of Neighbors United, he is also a part of the Oak Lawn Community Partnership Council and the Oak Lawn Clergy Association. Pastor Taylor is the Vice President of TARGET Area Development Corp based in Auburn-Gresham.  TARGET is an alliance of over 20 community organizations that work together on criminal justice reform, public safety issues and prisoner re-entry. Pastor Taylor is a founding member of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations. He has been married for 29 years to Johnnie Mae Taylor and they have a 12-year-old daughter named Rebecca.

Staff

Josina Morita, Executive Coordinator, The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations

In 2006 and 2007, she authored the Illinois’ Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity for the Applied Research Center, a national race and public policy organization.  Josina’s human rights and racial justice work has been recognized by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Japanese American Citizens League.  In 2007, she was named one of the top 35 leaders under 35 fighting racism and poverty in Chicago by the Community Renewal Society.  Josina received a B.A. in Sociology and International Race Relations from Pitzer College in 2002.  She is earning a Masters in Urban Planning and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Josina currently serves on the Executive Board of the Japanese American Service Committee.